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Titans Crystal Ball

Telling you now what will happen on Sunday



One of the disadvantages of writing for a weekly publication is the concept of deadline: articles must be submitted a week in advance of publication, so for a sportswriter in particular, this can be an insurmountable burden. It would be like being assigned to write 1000 words on the triumphant reunion of Tin Huey … three days before the band performed.

The show was spectacularly set, resplendent with (stuff I did not see), and the playlist of (songs I did not hear) was a like manna from heaven for the (number of fans I did not count).

Some things cannot be helped.

After the mind-boggling loss to the Colts, in which neither team scored an offensive touchdown, the Browns began preparing for the Tennesee Titans. The Titans are one of the NFL’s elite teams, sporting the league’s best record and playing some of the most ferocious defense this side of Pittsburgh. They also had 10 days in which to prepare, having clubbed the Detroit Baby Seals on Thanksgiving in possibly the worst day of wall-to-wall football since Oog Groont was taking snaps for the South Canada Mastodons in 10,317 B.C. (Groont, never the most mobile quarterback, was sacked by an onrushing glacier and is currently on display at the Smithsonian.) To top it all off, the Browns were forced to start Ken Dorsey, a quarterback whose main skill consists of the ability to hypnotize GMs into giving him money to hold a clipboard, as Derek Anderson’s season ended with a sprained MCL, aggravating his pre-existing condition, inflammation of the suck.

But time (and my editor) waits for no man, so instead of reporting on what happened in Sunday’s game, I will have to use my powers of precognition in an attempt to “pre-report” on how the game … um … will have already gone. (Douglas Adams was right: time travel verb tenses can will have been being ongewillan awkward.)

The Tennessee Titans waxed the Cleveland Browns Sunday in a game whose script appeared to have been co-authored by Lemony Snicket. Highlights of the actual gameplay included Chris Johnson’s TD runs of 83, 46, and 74 yards, and Kerry Collins completing a sparkling 18 of 21 passes in a 58-2 romp.

The fact that the Browns lost the game seemed almost incidental: Vegas handicappers removed the game from the betting board after Tennessee was still receiving over 85% of the best with the line set at 38 ½ points. Third-string quarterback Ken Dorsey, forced into action after season-ending injuries to Brady Quinn (finger tendon surgery) and Derek Anderson (knee, suck), turned in a performance that can only be described as, in the words of ESPN pundit Trent Dilfer, “the nadir of NFL quarterbacking since Spergon Wynn, until Dorsey was replaced.” Dilfer, a man with enormous credibility on the subject of abhorrent quaerterback play, was unavailable for further comment, as he was having surgery to move his eyeballs more than 9 millimeters apart.

Dorsey was able to complete 3 of his 14 passes before linemen Dave Ball and Kyle Vanden Bosch combined on a “sandwich sack” of Dorsey, who left the field under his own power. Dorsey was unable to take a deep breath due to the displacement of his lungs as the nose of the football became irretrievably lodged in his sternum. Dorsey will have surgery to remove the football, his sternum, and the subsequent staph infection. He is currently listed as “day-to-day” by the Browns’ medical staff.

Dorsey’s replacement, Richard Bartel, has been on the active roster since November 26th, and has already learned four plays. Bartel was able to run these plays with surprising aplomb, handing the ball to Jamal Lewis for -4 yards on 12 carries, and throwing six consecutive slant patterns to Braylon Edwards, who dropped only six of them. Bartel also executed the “Derek Anderson Foot Toss” to Kellen Winslow, a surprise performer after having his ankles amputated, as well as the “Texas Fall-Down Play” popularized by University of Texas QB Peter Gardere in the early ‘90s, in which the QB drops back and falls down for no discernable reason. “Ken was instrumental in teaching me that play,” Bartel said from his recovery room at St. Cletus’ Memorial Hospital in Nashville. “All the Miami QBs watch the film of that Cotton Bowl and come away impressed by Gardere’s complete lack of poise.” Gardere, a former CFL star punter, was unavailable for comment.

Bartel’s day ended prematurely when an unruly Browns fan in Nashville threw a heavy object at Braylon Edwards on the bench. The object, thought to be either a D battery or perhaps a very stale sausage, bounced off Edwards’ hands and clipped Bartel between the eyes, which swelled shut.

Josh Cribbs was given the opportunity to run the so-called “Wildcat” formation in the second half. Cribbs, a former Kent State quarterback, gained 35 yards on 4 rushes and completed two passes for 27 yards before being removed from the game by Romeo Crennel on the grounds of truly obscene effectiveness.

Out of options, Crennel began auditioning fans for the role of quarterback. Alternative beat writer Vince Grzegorek was given an opportunity, but his glory was short-lived, as a missed block by Eric Steinbach allowed Albert Haynesworth to speed unchecked into the backfield, where, after sacking Grzegorek, Haynesworth consumed the hapless backup, receiving a 15-yard penalty. Grzegorek will be remembered for his warm smile, his supply of Great Lakes Christmas Ale, and his being shorter than Mo Williams.

Virtually down to his last player, Crennel put Dave Zastudil in the shotgun formation, and Zastudil immediately punted on first down for each subsequent Browns possession. Crennel found this bold and innovative, and GM Phil Savage rewarded Zastudil with a four-year, $36-million contract extension.

The Browns scored a safety when Vince Young, inspired by the memory of Peter Gardere, executed the Texas Fall-Down Play after a Zastudil punt was downed at the 1 by Cribbs.

Flowers for Vince Grzegorek can be dropped by the offices of the Cleveland Scene starting Monday, December 8th. Flowers for the death of the Browns should be sent to Randy Lerner in Great Britain.

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